Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Showing posts with label Tsukiji fish market. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tsukiji fish market. Show all posts

Monday, October 8, 2018

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

Finally. I've been writing about this off and on for years, but at last the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo has breathed its last and closed up shop.

Closing on October 6, 2018 - and a huge part of Tokyo since the 1935 when it opened, the world's largest fish and seafood market has moved from its well-traveled Tokyo area to a new area - also in Tokyo.

I know... a fish market is moving from one part of Tokyo to another. Big whoop. Still people are sentimental about such things, and I get sentimentality. But this is just a building.

Beginning October 16, 208, the Toyosu Fish Market in eastern Tokyo will for all intents and porpoises be one of the largest buildings to open in Tokyo this year.

I doubt a heck of a lot will change for merchants moving from Tsukiji to Toyosu, Tsukuji vendors sold about 5-million pounds (2,267,972 kilograms) worth approximately US$28-million  - annually.

Toyosu hopes to retain the tourist-attraction flavor held by mighty Tsukiji - seriously, for anyone wanting to see the world's largest fish market in action, it just means a different route to travel. Ergo, if you want to see it, you will.

Like the old facility, there are restaurants/dining options, with pretty much all 40 of the stalls at Tsukiji now moving over to Toyosu. But... really, what you want to see are the tuna auctions where huge prices are paid for huge fish.

Tsukiji did require you to purchase a ticket in advance, but at Toyosu, you show up, you get to pick your own vantage point to see all  of the tuna auction action.

Honestly... for sight-seeing tourists, this move ain't no big deal. Still... think about the fact that you are going to a place where they want to keep the fish and seafood fresh. It's going to be cool, so dress appropriately.

Toyosu also has plans afoot to construct a hotel and hot springs for tourists. Next thing you know they'll build an oceanic disneyland-like place complete with rides and robot versions of Mizuchu (Japanese dragon and sea god) and Aquaman.

Meanwhile, back at Tsukiji, although the fish and seafood vendors have all left, there are still stalls and restaurants there at the so-called outer market.

Without the allure of Tsukiji, I would think that the outer market is going to lose a large amount of its customer base, but I would think that if the restaurants there are of a good enough quality, it would maintain its customer base.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash
PPS: Today's headline is taken from the stellar Douglas Adams book, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. It's the fourth book in the HitchHiker's Guide To The Galaxy trilogy. The video above is from the 2005 movie. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market Catches Fire

From CBC News… raw footage of the 80-year-old Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo catching fire on August 3, 2017 (Tokyo time).

Seven buildings were destroyed, but luckily no one was hurt.

The Tsukiji "inner" market, where most seafood wholesalers are located and world-famous tuna auctions are carried out at dawn, was not affected.

The fire took place in the so-called “outer” market - the restaurant area where tourists and visitors can go and eat fresh seafood and sushi et al

As evidenced by the video, some 66 fire trucks and their crews put out the blaze that encompassed about 935 square feet of shops and restaurants.

Officials are at a loss to explain how the blaze started, at this time, and are equally confused as to how all those sea fish ended up so far in-land. Kidding.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tsukiji 2016 And The Pacific Bluefin Tuna

I like tuna as much as the next guy—unless that next guy happens to be Kimura Kiyoshi (surname first).

Every New Year's day auction since 2012, the affable president of the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain has gladly overbid in his efforts to claim the first fish of the year at Tsukiji, a high-end fish market that will close up after eight-decades this year, relocating to a more modern area in Toyusu, just a few kilometers away.

For a 200-kilogram (440-pound) Pacific Bluefin Tuna, Kimura shelled out ¥14-million (US$117,000), a price that was three times higher than what he chucked out in 2015, but still less than what he paid in 2013 when he was caught in a bidding war with a Hong Kong restaurant chain, driving the bids up to a record ¥155.4-million yen (US$1.3-million).

I can get a can of tuna for about $2.99 at my local store - and that's with a wimpy Canadian dollar…

Of course that canned tuna you and I eat as a sandwich (mix the tune with mayo and relish!), is the white meat… what the Japanese cal the garbage part of the fish. They actually call that white tuna meat sea chicken (actually pronounce it as She Che-cone)… after the advertising jingle "What's the best tuna? Chicken of the Sea", a brand of tuna I know well enough.

But, for Kimura and his Sushi-Zanmai customers, the 'otoro' (fatty underbelly) meat of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna is considered a high-quality delicacy… unlike all bits of the Albacore or Yellow Fin tuna I get in my tuna cans. I've crunched bones in the possibly dolphin-unfriendly cheaper tuna cans.

So… a quality cut is a quality cut… and I probably could tell the difference between otoro and sea chicken—one lacks mayonnaise and relish—$117,000 still seems like a lot of money to this comparison shopper.

Kimura Kiyoshi (with blade) bids ¥14-million for the right to own the first tuna sold at the last ever Tsukiji fish auction.
The thing is… the Pacific Bluefin Tuna is considered to be a threatened species… and after hearing about the high prices being doled out at the 2016 Tsukiji auction, environmentalists have again called for a trade ban on the fish to protect it.

Holy crap… first eel and now tuna?

The world of sushi, heck, Japanese cuisine could be in danger of losing its identity, especially since there seems to be a global increase in sushi consumption.

And yet… hasn't there been a push for people to eat more fish as part of our daily diet?

What type of fish do they want us to eat?

I suppose we could eat farmed fish… it lacks the natural wild flavor or its net-caught cousins of the oceans and rivers… I can't tell the difference, however.

Heck, we already use that fake wasabi paste with our sushi… or at least I do at the corner shop…
Pacific Bluefin tuna at Kasai Rinkai Park, Tokyo, Japan... image from Wikipedia via
aes256 -
According to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) report I read, globally, of the 600 marine fish stocks monitored by the FAO :
  • 3% are underexploited;
  • 20% are moderately exploited;
  • 52% are fully exploited;
  • 17% are overexploited;
  • 7% are depleted;
  • 1% are recovering from depletion.
Undeveloped or new fishery. Believed to have a significant potential for expansion in total production;

Moderately exploited
Exploited with a low level of fishing effort. Believed to have some limited potential for expansion in total production;

Fully exploited

The fishery is operating at or close to an optimal yield level, with no expected room for further expansion;

The fishery is being exploited at above a level which is believed to be sustainable in the long term, with no potential room for further expansion and a higher risk of stock depletion/collapse;

Catches are well below historical levels, irrespective of the amount of fishing effort exerted;

Catches are again increasing after having been depleted

So… the report says that the Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnis thynnus) is considered to be overexploited with some 9,000 tons/year being hauled in in the areas in which it is fished, namely areas 61, 67, 71, 77, 81 and 87 in the map below.

So... yeah... the Pacific Bluefin Tuna is indeed losing its hold on the planet... and could, if over-fishing is not curtailed, go the way of the dodo.

On the one hand, I am impressed by how much the 2016 Tsukiji Pacific Bluefin Tuna was sold for; kind of peeved that the sushi guy has that much money to throw around for a wish when I don't; angry that yet another creature could become extinct; pissed because it could do so to feed the ego of some rich old guy and his hot, new and younger wife; conflicted because I sorta wish that was me (er, the rich old guy and not the hot, new and younger wife); and relieved that I've come to the end of a blog knowing that no animals were badly injured in the making of said blog.

For an interesting, sad and ridiculous story, read how the Japanese ate a bird to extinction HERE.

Here's a story on the rare wasabi HERE. A story on the decline of the eel can be seen HERE.

Somewhere underexploited,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

No More Big Ka-Tuna

Whether the thrill is gone or the bi-polar cycle is now depressed, there was a sense of normality at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market on Sunday, January 5, 2014.

For the past two years - 2013 and 2012 - tuna prices have been going through the roof - perhaps aided by reports of dwindling stock.

But this year - 2014 - sushi restaurant owner Kimura Kiyoshi (surname first) paid only... hang-on... "only" ¥7.36 million (~US/Cdn $70,728) for a 230-kilogram (507.06 lb) bluefin tuna at the market's much celebrated first auction of the year. That's ¥32,000/kg (~US/Cdn $139.49/lb)

If that seems like a lot, just note that it is still only... hang-on... "only" five per cent of what he paid in 2013, when he shelled out ¥154.4 million (~US/Cdn $1.484 million) for a 222 kg (489.43 lb) bluefin tuna. That was the new record for a fish.

It works out to ¥695,495 per kilogram and for you metric-challenged folks, that equals ~US/Cdn $1,421.03 a pound.

In 2012's first January auction, the very same Kimura-san first went crazy and bid (and paid) ¥56.4 million (then ~US/Cdn $736,000)... for a 269 kg blue fin. This works out to be about $1,241 per pound or ¥209,665.43 per kg.

Is it all about ego and being the one with his name in the media around the world, or does Kimura just want the best fish?

Evidence would suggest it is the former, as the biggest fish may not be the one with the highest quality meat.

But... despite Kimura's outrageous price(s) paid, once has to realize that he didn't just start the bidding up at those amazing prices... he was pushed that high by others.

"I’m glad that the congratulatory price for this year’s bid went back to being reasonable," explains Kimura, who owns Kiyomura Co. which operates the popular Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain.

Actually, Kimura is a decent enough guy whose brain may not match his wallet. Back in 2012 Kimura said that the reason he paid so much (¥56.4 million) for the tuna was because he wanted to provide a morale boost to the people of Japan after the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami et al.

At that time Kimura told Jiji Press: "I wanted people in Japan, not those abroad, to eat the number-one tuna."

Fair enough. National pride and all that... but dammit Kimura... what about those affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear displacement? What should they do? They lost their home, job, family... should we let them eat fish cake?

Like I said... seems like a nice enough guy, but the money he spend on the fish could have been donated to the victims/Red Cross. Of course... I'm speaking out of line here... I have NO idea about the man's generosity! Kimura may have donated plenty of money and food to those in need. I'm not saying he did... but he might have.
Photograph by John Anderson, National Geographic
The silvery magnificence of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) swims past a diver in Japan's Tokyo Sea Life Park. The fish's belly meat is prized as the finest sushi in the world; one fish can easily sell for tens of thousands of dollars on the world market. Its meat is in such demand that overfishing—some illegal—leaves the giant bluefin population at risk of collapse.
Now... why did the prices for bluefin tuna drop when it appears as though their is a dwindling supply of live bluefin tuna left in the oceans?

Is demand dropping along with supply? Probably not. I actually ate a couple of tuna sandwiches while I wrote the above during my lunch. It wasn't bluefin - yellow albacore, actually... and it was white tuna meat... what the Japanese call sea chicken (the Japanese generally only eat the red meat of the tuna - the good stuff), and understand that we stupid gaijin (foreigners) like the garbage part of the fish (the white meat). They hold it with such disdain that white tuna is called sea chicken. Why? If you are old enough to recall this commercial song: What's the best tuna? Chicken of the Sea. Sea Chicken... a brand.

Anyhow... the Japanese still love their red meat tuna... especially the bluefin. The Japanese consume about 80 per cent of all the bluefin tuna caught in the world... so if the fish does ever go extinct, you can lay 80 per cent of the blame on the Japanese.

This is what bluefin tuna looks like as sushi.
Over the past 15 years, the Pacific Bluefin, Southern Bluefin and Atlantic Bluefin (there are three varieties) stock has fallen dramatically. The main cause is overfishing... more and more people are growing to enjoy the taste of the bluefin tuna's red meat.

Apparently the stock of the bluefin plunged by 60 per cent between 1997-2007 thanks to overfishing and lax quotas. And, while there is improvement in recent years, the fish's survival is still teetering.

Of a huge concern is a fact that some 90 per cent of the bluefin tuna caught are those that have not YET reached their reproductive age... that means only 10 per cent of the population gets a chance to breed. I'll leave off a joke here.

Anyhow... Japanese nationalism still rears its head at the Tsukiji fish market... bluefin tuna caught from areas that are NOT Japanese parts of the world, reached decidedly lower prices.

For example, a 189 kg gaijin farmed blue fin tuna sold for ¥662,00 (~US/Cdn $6,400) = ¥3,500/kg. The same size and sort of fish reached ¥4,800/kg.

Okay, okay... it's not really that big a deal. Despite it being a gaijin bluefin tuna... it's a farmed one.

And... if that sounds like stupid thing to say, I can honestly tell you that there is a HUGE difference in taste for farmed fish versus wild, with the wild fish tasting 10x better. I know, I know... at least with farmed fish you can know exactly what the fish has been eating, and thus have a better indication of its health... but dammit... fresh, wild fish tastes soooooo much better than farmed fish... especially if it's been frozen.

So... with Japan's consumption of bluefin tuna meat not showing any signs of slowing... a reduction of bluefin tuna available... and most bizarrely prices for bluefin tuna dropping... does anyone want to take any bets on what the very last bluefin tuna will cost? And when?

I should also point out that fewer bluefin tuna were sold at the Tsukiji fish market this year than last... which may imply that it was more difficult to find the large fish this year. It dos NOT mean that fishermen were fishing within a quota.

Tsukiji, by the way, is Japan’s largest and busiest fish market and has been selling sea critters for over 50 years at the Chuo Ward, Tokyo facility.

Tsukiji trades some 2,000 tons of marine life a day and ¥1.5 billion (~US/Cdn $14.4 million) in business, making it one of the busiest markets in the world.

The Tsukji market will close just before it moves to a new location in the Koto Ward of Tokyo in April 2015. It will then be known as the Toyosu market.

Visit Tsukiji while you can, folks.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo at the very top by Shizuo Kambayashi/ AP.
Sushi restauranteur Kimura Kiyoshi poses with a 230-kilogram bluefin tuna he bought at an auction before cutting it at his restaurant near Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. (Jan. 5, 2014).
PPS: It is my impression that the tuna caught and being shown in the photo is an American one. How else to explain the exploding Japanese sun sticker on the side of the fish? Obviously this tuna shot down a Japanese airplane at some point during the war. Yes. Banzai! Not Bonsai! Bonsai are the tiny trees made by bondage.